Ecuador is a small country, but it seems much bigger when considering the variety of foods that are offered within it. Each area of the country has its own cuisines and traditions—ceviche on the coast, encocado in Esmeraldas, cuy in the Sierras—and many of these cuisines are available at only certain times of year. Mote pata is one of these. In the Andean town of Cuenca, mote pata, a soup made from mote (similar to hominy), peanuts, and pork, is a Carnival tradition.
Carnival is a festival that happens every year in February or March. Although it’s unclear what exactly is being celebrated in Carnival, it comes before the Catholic season of Lent, and is characterized by general gaiety and partying. This festival is celebrated all over the world in a multitude of ways, but in Ecuador it is commonly celebrated by the throwing of water balloons, flour, and shaving cream at friends and even unsuspecting passersby. But once Cuencanos are drenched in water and covered in flour, they all sit down to enjoy the hearty goodness of a steaming bowl of mote pata.
Here, for our readers, we have included the recipe for mote pata, so that travelers and expats can enjoy Carneval right along with everyone else.
(Disclaimer: Although the word pata—Spanish for “foot”—appears in the name of this dish, there are no feet of any kind to be found. The word pata instead refers to the amount of time the mote has traditionally been cooked. It is common to say that something is hecho pata if it has been cooked for an especially long time)
1 pound bone-in pork chops
2 whole garlic cloves, plus 3 minced cloves
4 cups water, plus 1 additional cup
3 cups cooked mote
1-2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 cup diced yellow onion
¼ teaspoon ground achiote
1 teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon ground pepper
1 teaspoon salt, to taste
1/3 cup peanut butter (either chunky or smooth)
1 cup skim milk (optional)
1 sliced hard boiled egg
1 sliced avocado
- To make the broth, add the pork chops, 4 cups of water, and the whole cloves of garlic to a medium pot. Cook for 30-45 minutes until the pork is done.
- Remove the pork from the pot and cut into small pieces. Set aside. Reserve the rest of the stock, removing the whole garlic cloves.
- In a food processor, puree 1 cup of the cooked hominy with the peanut butter and 1/2 cup of the broth. Process until smooth. Set aside.
- In a large dutch oven or pan over medium heat, add the vegetable oil and, once the oil is hot, make a refrito with the onions and the minced garlic. Refrito simply refers to sautéed onions and garlic with the addition of other spices, and is commonly used as a flavor base in Ecuadorian cooking. Season the refritowith the ground achiote, ground pepper, cumin and salt. Sautée until the onions turn translucent, about 3-5 minutes.
- Add the remaining hominy and the hominy/peanut butter puree. Stir to incorporate all the ingredients. Adjust seasoning if necessary. Add the rest of the stock plus the additional cup of water. Stir and cook for 10 minutes over medium heat in order to thicken the soup.
- Add the chopped pork and cook for another 5 minutes. Adjust seasoning if necessary. Optional: Add the cup of milk and cook for 5 minutes on low heat to thicken the soup a bit more. Make sure to stir constantly so that the milk doesn’t curdle.
- Serve immediately and garnish with slices of hard boiled eggs or avocados.